New world-first plan says only 10 per cent of reefs to survive past 2050

By AG Staff 24 February 2017
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A world-first plan to choose 50 of the most critical coral reefs to save was launched today.

HALF OF THE WORLD’S coral has been lost in the past 30 years, and only 10 per cent is predicted to survive past 2050 – that’s the dire prediction that has led to the launch of the first global plan to save the world’s coral reefs.

50 Reefs was launched today at the World Ocean Summit in Bali. The initiative will bring together scientists, conservationists and philanthropists, with the aim to develop and release a list of 50 critical coral reefs to protect along with corresponding initiatives by the end of this year. 

bleached coral

Before and after picture showing coral bleaching at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef in March 2016, and the same reef in May 2016 after the coral had died. (Image: The Ocean Agency / XL Caitlin Seaview Survey / Christopher Bailhache)

“When people think of climate change, they often think of extreme heat, severe storms, and raging wildfires. But some of the most disastrous effects of climate change are out of sight – on the ocean floor,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change in a statement coinciding with today’s launch.

“In fact, 90 per cent of coral reefs are expected to disappear by 2050 and saving the remaining coral reefs are critical. Without coral reefs, we could lose up to a quarter of the world’s marine biodiversity and hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people would lose their primary source of food and livelihoods. We must not allow this to happen.” 

In the first global study of its kind – and building on prior research led by the University of Queensland – the 50 Reefs plan will see ocean, climate and marine scientists working together to identify where global efforts should be prioritised, drawing on datasets such as reef biodiversity and vulnerability to climate change.

bleached coral

A bleached coral reef in the Maldives. (Image: The Ocean Agency / XL Caitlin Seaview Survey)

The datasets used to inform the new plan will be agreed upon by an independent panel of experts from leading global oranisations. The researchers will also be drawing on thousands of images of coral reefs from 22 countries, captured as part of the XL Caitlin Seaview Survey, using cutting edge semi-autonomous and computer learning technology to document the state of the world’s reefs.

While it is yet to be confirmed whether Australia’s World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef will make the final 50, the launch of the new global plan comes on the back of predictions that 2017 may see another extensive bleaching event on the reef, after it suffered the worst bleaching event in its history in 2016.